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23 Innings Later, Jupiter Walks Off With 2-1 Win05/24/2011 2:08 AM ET
The Roger Dean Stadium scoreboard had to be reset two times. The grounds crew dragged the infield four times. The crowd stretched their legs and sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" three times. And 23 innings after they started, Jupiter won the longest game in team history when Jose Duarte's fly ball fell just inside the right field line, scoring J.L. Ortiz for the 2-1 marathon win over Clearwater.
In a game that saw each team use eight pitchers, about the only thing more amazing than the ones who kept Jupiter off the board - designated hitter Joe Savery and first baseman Darin Ruf each tossed two innings - was the one the Hammerheads scored on.
The Threshers called on Justin Friend, the Minor Leagues' leader in saves and a pitcher who had allowed just eight hits all season. Yet Ortiz, hitless in seven at-bats to that point, led off with a base hit, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Miguel Fermin. That's when Duarte and the Hammerheads became the first team to get two hits off Friend this year.
Ortiz crossed the plate shortly after the clock crept past midnight, with the game ending a mere 5 hours and 37 minutes after its 6:35 p.m. start. Nearly two games had been played since the previous run scored, when Dallas Poulk brought home Fermin 17 innings earlier, back in the 6th frame.
Fermin finished 3-for-8 after starting the game with three doubles in his first three trips to the plate. But his bunt in the 23rd inning wasn't his only sacrifice of the night; Fermin caught all 23 innings of the game, as did Clearwater's catcher Sebastian Valle.
Though no one could predict how the game turned out, the contest began with the look of a pitchers' duel. Jupiter managed just four hits in six innings against Threshers starter Brody Colvin, rated as the Phillies' top pitching prospect.
Hammerhead starter Matt Montgomery didn't come with the same pedigree, but the right-hander looked every bit as good, limiting Clearwater to six hits in seven innings, striking out five and issuing an intentional walk. That walk loaded the bases with one out in the 5th, but Montgomery got a pair of strikeouts to escape the jam. The Threshers got their only run of the game on back-to-back doubles by Jiwan James and Brian Gump in the 3rd inning.
From there, the bullpens put up zero after zero, but not without each team coming within 90 feet of a win. Jupiter's Kyle Jensen led off the 15th inning with a walk, advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and got to third base on a wild pitch. But after an intentional walk, reliever Joe Esposito got Ortiz to end the inning with a double play.
Clearwater took its best shot in the 18th inning, finally free from reliever Kris Harvey, who tossed three perfect frames. When Bryan Evans relieved Harvey for Jupiter, the Threshers came out swinging, with three straight singles. The third, a base hit by Ruf, went into right field, where Ernesto Manzanillo charged and gunned down Leandro Castro at the plate. With runners still on the corners and just one out, Evans got a pop fly and a strikeout to keep the extra innings coming.
By contrast, some of the quietest innings were tossed by Clearwater's Savery and Ruf. Savery, a first-round pick as a pitcher in 2007, was converted to a full-time hitter by Philadelphia prior to this season, and he has responded by hitting .320 on the year. But with the game entering its 19th inning, Savery took the mound once more, tossing two innings and allowing just two singles. Ruf, a true first baseman, was even more impressive, allowing just a walk and a single in his professional debut on the mound.
Though two infielders headed to the bullpen in the 23rd inning, Jupiter didn't need a position pitcher. After getting at least three innings from Harvey, Evans and Jose Rosario, the Hammerheads still had Ramon Benjamin to throw the 21st and 22nd, while closer A.J. Ramos took the win with a 23rd inning in which he struck out two.
Despite having played 32 innings already, there are still two more games in this four-game series. While Game 2 ended in the earliest parts of Tuesday morning, the two teams will face off again Tuesday evening. Jupiter's Rob Rasmussen takes the mound against Threshers starter Julio Rodriguez at 6:35 p.m. at Roger Dean Stadium, with both teams looking for their pitchers to go deep into the game.